From Cantona to Grays via Swansea vs Cardiff

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I’m leaving the rain of Barcelona for the sun of Bristol on Tuesday morning, before driving to Swansea to watch the big game against Cardiff for FourFourTwo’s ‘More Than A Game’ feature.

I’ll return for the league game in November and meet up with the lads from Cardiff’s Soul Crew the night before.

For this first game, my focus will be on Swansea City. The club have been exceptionally friendly to deal with so far and I’ve got interviews lined up with players, journalists and fans.

Alan Tate and 'that flag' - 2006 LDV Vans Trophy final

Andrea Orlandi is one of several Spanish Swans and someone I know from Barcelona, where he played once for the first team. He also performed for Alaves. I was going to get in touch, but he texted on Saturday to say that we should meet up so I’ll see him after the game.

I’d imagine what happens next will depend on the result. If Swansea beat Cardiff then the city should be lively. If not, well, let’s see.

Andrea is a talented professional who was hampered by injuries last season. He played on Saturday against Burnley though so hopefully he will play against Cardiff.

“The game against Cardiff is a big game for us,” he said. No shit!

Orlandi: Has been swotting up on the south Wales derby 

On Wednesday, I’ll interview Swansea’s longest serving player Kristian O’Leary at their training ground. He’s the only one who has played against Cardiff before and is a Manchester United fan.

Then I’ll drive the length of the M4 to London ahead of Thursday’s game between Grays and Stevenage. I’ll catch up with James Brown in London. He’s Leeds, but he’s a decent lad. He started Loaded magazine and then edited GQ, bought Viz and founded (the now sadly defunct) JACK magazine.

He once told me that Stephen McPhail would be a better player than Roy Keane. McPhail, formerly of Leeds, should play for Cardiff at Swansea.

Brown came to stay last year with his son and used my computer to go on a Leeds messageboard. He inadvertently left the computer on and had written: “I’m in enemy territory surrounded by Man U (that’s Manchester United, the European champions) books and a picture of Eric Cantona. There’s even Granada Reports on the tele and Lancashire cheese in the fridge!”

On Thursday, I’ll head east to Grays to do a fly on the wall feature on how Setanta cover a game. Paul Parker and Steve Bower, who was at MUTV, will be doing the commentary so I’ll shadow them and observe with the photographer I last worked with in Marseille.

Grays' Recreation Ground: It's no Marseille... 

From Eric Cantona by the Med in July to a non-league game by the Thames Estuary at the end of September…

I’ve never been to Grays before, though I saw them destroy Altrincham in the FA Trophy when my brother played there three years ago. They rose to non-league’s top flight where they have stayed, but they’ve just been hit with the resignation of their owner, manager and chairman Mick Woodward.

Should be interesting…